Tag Archives: health


Top 11 Biggest Lies of Mainstream Nutrition

I love this article… it is a great summary of why everything we think we know about weight loss is wrong.  Plus, it has links to real, honest scientific research.

Some of the biggest lies:
Lie 5. Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You
Lie 9. Low Carb Diets Are Dangerous
Lie 11. High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat

I was also pleased to see that most of the “life lessons” I have learned along the way (in the last 2 years anyway) are actually listed here :)

Any thoughts about it? Anything you really disagree with?

A tale of two diets – Part one: The story about quality vs. quantity

I'm making a list of things I have discovered which are either unexpected, or actually the complete opposite of what I believed before. 

For now I'm expressing them as "old story" and "new story" and avoiding charged labels like "myth" and "fact".  The old story may work for some people… the new story works better for me.

Here's one:  The story about quality vs. quantity.
Old story: A great diet plan means eating whatever I want, in moderation.  
New story: If I find the right set of foods, I can eat whenever I am hungry, and not stress about it other times.

Most of us believe that "calories" is the most important measurement of a diet.  Eat a 2000 calorie diet and gain weight, or eat a 1200 calorie diet and lose weight.  "A calorie is a calorie" or "Calories in, calories out" are common expressions of this story. 

I have thought long and hard about why I'm uncomfortable with this story.  "Calories in, calories out" is both true and unhelpful.  It says that our natural "hunger" signals are there to betray us and they must be wrong.  Some lucky people get to eat whenever they are hungry, and others don't.  If you have eaten more than enough calories and you're still hungry, you must be a defective person or have crappy willpower.  We're told to pay no attention to the type of food we're eating, just the amount.

Where else in our life is quantity the most important thing?  When I go buy a T.V. I don't want half of the best model, and I don't want three crappy models.

Anyone want to help add to the list?  Tell me if you have had other "revelations" on your own path.

What works for me: Diet changes first, exercise later

What we are always told:
Diet and exercise are both important.  If you do only one, and not the other, you will not succeed.

What I found to be true for me:
Exercise never helped me to lose weight.  It was usually either a distraction, or messed with my diet, or even worse, gave me pain and injuries.  I've seen some news lately that suggests exercise is important for health, but not actually effective for weight loss.

So, my experience was that changing my diet (i.e. less carb more fat) allowed me to get to 70% of my goal.  Now I am able to exercise without hurting myself, so I started a modest workout plan.  It has slowed down my weight loss, but I am not too concerned.

Low-carb and Diabetes

I'm not officially "diabetic" but my doctor says I am "prediabetic". So some time back I got a blood glucose meter and tested myself for a while. Since then I have also started a very low-carb diet (call it Primal/Paleo or LCHF) and have lost a lot of weight. My HbA1C tests have showed I am still on the borderline, but my doctor says it shows "excellent control" (mine is 5.1%, non-diabetic will be 4.9% or less).

So I probably still have some level of insulin resistance, and will keep checking things. But, I am happy with the weight loss (70 pounds so far in the last 18 months) and I'm feeling great.

What does ADA have to say about low-carb diets? Not much.

Re-negotiating my relationship to food

I want to re-negotiate my relationship to food.

Typical low-fat diet wisdom

  • Eat a lot of small meals during the day
  • Diet and exercise together–both are important
  • Portion control is key
  • Eat protein, starch, and veggies about equally
  • Avoid fat, no "bad" fats, small amount of "good" fats
  • Avoid sweets
  • Carbs are the body's "preferred" fuel
  • Number of calories is the most important measurement of the diet
  • If you eat fat, you can only eat half as much food as when you're eating carbs

What's wrong with this picture?

  • I want to eat when I am hungry. I don't want to feel hungry and I don't want to busy myself eating when I am not hungry.
  • I know short-term diets don't work.  I know I need to find a plan that I can live with for the rest of my life.
  • I want to find the right balance of food for me.  I haven't found it yet, but since I started actively experimenting on myself, I feel I am much closer.
  • I don't want to count calories in order to live.  If I can find the "right" foods, I would prefer to eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm not hungry.  The "right" foods are the ones that I can eat more of, if I feel the urge.
  • Keeping track of what I eat is necessary only while I'm re-learning how to eat, or when I'm actively experimenting on myself.
  • I don't know how to "listen to my body" to learn what it truly needs.  Since I've had a lifetime of learning the wrong way to eat, and have picked up habits that don't work well, the messages from my body may be drowned out by other messages, or may even be fundamentally wrong.  I would like to learn this skill, though. I want to be able to follow the signals from my own body rather than ignore them or fight them.  I need to find the right channels to tune in.
  • I love food, and I love to eat.  Because of that, I don't want to eat crappy food just to "fill up".  Maybe I'll eat until I'm full on special occasions, but only if the food is awesome and I'm enjoying every bite.  Having great food is much more important to me than having more food.
  • I want to feel satisfied after eating, and not feel hungry again for many hours.  I don't need to feel full… I just want to not think about food for a while, and not get into trouble because of it.
  • There are some special foods that I love, but I don't need to have them every day.  In most cases having them every week or even every month or two is fine — I enjoy them even more, and I am not suffering in between treat-times.  When I do have them, I want to have "enough" but I prefer not to have too much.
  • I don't think I should need to eat foods I don't care for just because they are "good for me".  I am not in danger of being malnourished.  If my body needs something, I'll probably get a craving for it, if I can learn to listen to the signals.
  • I keep hearing about how eating fat makes you fat, but history tells me that bacon and eggs are not new on the world stage.  Low-fat and highly processed foods are new, however.  I should seek out "real" food and I should be skeptical of anything my grandparents would not have recognized as food.
  • Industrial food-makers have a vested interest in selling me foods made of corn and wheat, because it is cheap for them to make.  I have a good job, so I can afford to pay the full, true cost of my food.  Cheaper food is seldom better food.  I want my choice of food to reflect my deeply-held moral beliefs as well as being good for my body.
  • I believe that I should have some exercise, but I also believe it should be in moderation too.  I believe it will be easier to eat less than to raise my exercise level to match the excess in my diet.  I am skeptical of a diet that comes with a required exercise plan–I know they show short-term results, but it is not a good fit for the rest of my life.

Low-carb diet, after 6+ months

I am still eating a very-low-carb diet.  (The one I'm following is LCHF, very similar to Paleo.  Look back a few entries in my LJ for more info about the diet itself.)  So far, it is an awesome life-change for me and I am actually enjoying it.  Compared to other "points" or "calorie restriction" diets, it has been much easier to follow and stay on.  I have been losing about 2-3 pounds a week when I'm paying close attention, and staying about the same when I become lazy or cheat more than 1 day per week.. but it seems quite sustainable.

Perhaps it's too early to write the story of my success.  Honestly, I am still in the middle of the voyage of discovery.  But I wanted to take some notes for myself about how I'm feeling about it right now, because I feel like I'm reaching a turning point.  For one thing, I am able to eat much much less, and get away with it, almost effortlessly, and I think that is important to the long-term plan.

After spending the first month or so just getting used to what foods to buy and eat, and a month or so just getting into the habits and learning the skills I need, there followed about 6 months keeping up the new regime, give or take a couple vacations.  The pattern for those 6 months has been this: seek out fats and eat them, being careful to get enough so that I won't get hungry.

The theory has been that I'm training my body to consume fats, and therefore when I do choose to eat less, my body can easily tap into my own "strategic energy reserves" mostly located around my middle.  The theory was, that over time I would eat less food overall, and not go hungry.  But, I guess until right now I was a bit shy about actually testing the theory.  I was keeping busy with finding the fat sources and making sure to eat enough of it because I was afraid of what would happen if I started to eat less.

But, now in the last week or so, I am actually eating less, and it's been fine.  I'm still a little shy about testing it too much because I don't want to make myself hungry, then risk ditching the diet because I'm discouraged.  Early indications are good, however.  A couple times I have just skipped breakfast and lunch, and almost unbelievably, the theory works!  Strategic energy reserves are getting burned, almost without me noticing.  If I eat much less (even as low as 1/3 of my daily average), I still don't seem to notice any actual feelings of hunger.  This is what I expected, but still it's weird.

The old low-fat diet advice says "a calorie is a calorie" and implies that carbs are better than fats, because you can eat more of them — a pound of sugar or starch has less than half the calories of a pound of fat.  I don't believe that calorie counting is the key, nor even a useful skill, but I do believe that calories figure in one way or another.  At least that part the scientists have right.  What I now believe is that "low carb" is not a magic spell that makes calories not matter, but "low carb" certainly makes it *easier* to consume less and still be satisfied.  I now believe that LCHF by itself is not a complete solution, just like limiting calories by itself is not a complete solution, but that both of them together can form a winning combination.

In other words, I have been using mayonnaise as a crutch, and I don't think I need to do that anymore.  Making sure I get enough food doesn't need to be the primary concern anymore.  I need to take the next step–which is to find out how low I can actually go before actually feeling hungry, which I don't recall feeling at all in the last 8 months.  I have totally changed *what* I'm eating without much change to *how much* I'm eating — now it's time to learn where the edges are in a different direction.

Animal-based diets harmful to humans and the environment

While visiting my mom, I saw a video extolling the virtues of a plant-based diet versus an animal-based diet. The video was not the greatest in terms of production values, (i.e. most of the film was shots of someone talking, or stills with voice-overs) but it certainly got the point across.

Most of the content was stuff that I already knew, but which I’ve been somewhat comfortable with ignoring. For example…

WW update

Last week on WW I managed to stay below my 40 points for 5 out of 7 days. Not a lot, mind you… I’m still well within my weekly goal, since there’s another 35 “floating” points to use any time within the week. My biggest points day was when I had specialty’s breakfast sandwich with sausage, also coffee cake, and also got take-out Thai food for dinner. I can’t do that every day, but doing that once a week definitely won’t kill me.

After 1 week I’m actually down 10 pounds. Some of that could be random fluctuations, but probably at least 5 of that is actual loss. I don’t want to keep that rate… I’d rather lose 2-3 per week and take my time getting where I want to go.

I also “levelled up” in the fitness/calisthenics program (see prior post for details). Ding 3! Level 3 consists of 4 stretches, 6 crunches, 6 leg lifts, 3 push ups, and running in place for 170 steps mixed in with 14 jumping jacks. (These are all the “easy” versions of the exercises, crunch only enough to see your heels, push up with knees on the ground, etc). It’s getting progressively easier but I’m still pretty winded after all that. I’m content to take my time there too.